Maputo, 21 Aug (AIM) – The United Association of Mozambican Health Workers (APSUSM) resumed a national strike, on Sunday, warning that it will last for at least 21 days.
APSUSM says is represents all workers in the health service except doctors. It says it has 65,000 members – nurses, laboratory technicians, cleaners, drivers and other auxiliary staff – and claims they will all obey the strike call.
If the figure of 65,000 is true, APSUSM would be the largest trade union in the country.
APSUSM chairperson Anselmo Muchave told a Maputo press conference on Saturday that his members are going back on strike because the 60 day period agreed with the government to seek consensus had expired, and there was still no consensus in sight.
The strike had begun on 1 June, but was suspended, Muchave said, after negotiations with the government on 3-4 June. He claimed that the government had agreed to implement the agreements reached within 15 days. Nonetheless, the strike had been suspended for 60 days.
Muchave said the purpose of the strike was to demand better conditions for health professionals and for patients, including the provision of medicines in public health units. The strikers also want more and better hospital beds, complaining that currently most of the beds don’t have mattresses, and that when they do exist they are ruined.
But the Health Ministry has repeatedly insisted that there is no general shortage of medicines, and even showed reporters around the General Medical Stores in Maputo, so that they could see for themselves that there is no shortage of medicines, of personal protective equipment or of other essentials.
Muchave also claimed that ambulances “do not have emergency materials for rapid life support”.
He demanded an improvement in hospital food, claiming that the meals served “are not for people, but for animals”.
He added that, during the strike, APSUSM members will guarantee minimum services. “Nobody will die because of lack of attendance by health professionals”, he promised. “Care is guaranteed in the emergency services and in the maternity wards”.
Meanwhile, the separate strike by doctors, called by the Mozambican Medical Association (AMM), looks set to continue for at least another three weeks.
After a national meeting of the AMM, the Association’s leadership announced on Sunday that the strike will be extended for a further 21 days.
The AMM chairperson, Milton Tatia, claimed that he, Deputy Chairperson Paulo Samo Gudo, and General Secretary Napoleao Viola, have all received anonymous death threats.
He warned that, if any of the AMM leaders were to be assassinated, then the entire health service, including private clinics, would be paralysed. “If one falls, we all fall”, declared Tatia. He did not suggest who had made the alleged death threats.
In a statement issued on Sunday night, the Ministry of Health declared that the government “will continue to guarantee a continuity of health services to the public”.
It regretted the decisions taken by the AMM and by APSUSM, and pledged that it will continue to prioritise dialogue “in order to find solutions to the disputes with health professionals”.